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Full text of "My country and my people"

THE    ARTISTIC    LIFE                          2§g
tension. It Is only necessary to point to the graceful sag in the "radical" signifying a roof in Chinese characters to see that this Is no mere Imagination of the author.
Our love for rhythmic or wavy lines or broken lines and our hatred of straight, dead lines become obvious when it Is remembered that we have never perpetrated anything quite as ugly as the Cleopatra's Needle. Some modern Chinese architect has perpetrated a Western-styled lighthouse-shaped thing called the West Lake Exhibition Memorial, and It stands there amidst the beauties of West Lake like a sore on a beauty's face, causing all sorts of eye troubles when one looks at It too long.
It would be easy to give examples of our devices to break straight, dead lines. The best classic example is perhaps the balustraded round bridge. The round bridge harmonizes with nature, because it Is in a curve and because It Is balus» traded. Its spans are not as long and Its balustrades not as useful as the steel trusses of the Brooklyn Bridge, but no one can deny that it suggests less human cleverness and more beauty. Consider also the pagoda, and how Its entire beauty derives from the fact that Its outline Is broken by a succession of projecting roofs, especially those end-lines that curl upward like the slanting strokes of Chinese writing. Consider also the peculiar pair of stone pillars outside the Tienanmen at Pelping* Nothing is more striking than the wavy-lined symbol of clouds placed horizontally across the top on each pillar, resulting in a form unparalleled in audacity even in Chinese art. The pillars themselves have a wavy surface, whatever the pretext may be. It happens that the waves represent clouds, but this is an artistic pretext to introduce rhythm into the surface. The stone pillars of the Temple of Confucius bear, too, the wavy lines of the entwining dragons. Because the wavy lines of the dragon's body help to break the straight lines, we find the dragon constantly used as a useful decorative motive, apart from its symbolic value.
Everywhere we try to catch and Incorporate the natural rhythm of nature and imitate Its Irregularity. The spirit underlying it all Is still the spirit of animism in calligraphy. We break the lines of window bars by using green-glazed tiles